Author: Stephen C. Curro

The air is sour with smoke. Emergency sirens shriek in the distance. All around me the world is burning.
​My four arms cut through the haze. I stumble over the rubble, hardly able to believe that this was a busy plaza moments ago.
​“Mal’ven?” I call out. “Where are you?”
​My three hearts quicken at the sound of my mate’s voice. My stilt-like legs nearly trip as I climb over the carcass of the building. “I’m coming, my love!”
​I see her now. She’s straining to push a chunk of stone off her abdomen. It breaks my hearts to see her battered and blue with blood. I’m crying with grief…oh, Holy Spirits; I haven’t wept like this in years.
​I lower my body and cradle her in my arms. The embrace she returns is weak. “Don’t worry,” I whisper. “We’re getting off this planet.”
​“Soo’so,” she groans. She’s in shock. I must free her immediately.
I grasp the debris and strain to lift it. With a grunt I flip the slab of concrete and metal over, freeing my mate. I help her to her feet and we hobble together down the ruined street, toward the embassy.
​People are stirring in the ruins as we pass by. Some human, others alien. There are bloody bodies half-exposed in the rubble that do not move. All for what? For fanatics to express how much they detest our presence?
​May the Spirits forgive me; this is my fault.
​I was the one who insisted we take our holiday here on Earth. “We must show that our race holds no animosity”, I said. “After all, the war was so long ago. Earth is a civilized world again.”
​We have paid for my naivety. Too many humans feel that “revenge” must be sought. There is no word for “revenge” in my people’s language; it is a strange, violent concept that has driven humans mad long before my people ever landed on Earth.
​I’m burning with an anger that is almost as hot as the fires around me. I cannot comprehend how these humans are incapable of forgiveness. A century has passed since the war ended.
​My people have absolved humanity for the crimes of the old war, and still the radicals persist in their violence. They are under the delusion that killing innocent aliens (who were not even born during the war!) is an act of justice. They bomb restaurants, and assault hotels, and gun down pedestrians on the street. They even strike against humans who are accepting of visitors from other worlds. Spirits above, they kill their own people!
​I was wrong. Perhaps eventually humanity will come of age, but I fear that day will not arrive anytime soon.
​I have wasted enough time musing about human nature. The important thing is we survived, and I will atone for my foolishness by getting us home.
​I can see the embassy in the distance. Just a little farther…
​I have seen what civilization looks like. It does not exist on this planet.